85% of teenage girls are sedentary while male lack of physical activity hits 78% in a generation that has been baptized as OW for overweight.
Experts have long been warning that young people do not do all the physical exercise they should. Now we have the confirmation: 80% of adolescents between 11 and 17 years of age around the world do not perform the minimum daily activity to be healthy.
Specialists do not only talk about sports but about basic actions such as walking to school or playing ball with friends in the park. The standards of the World Health Organization (WHO) speak of a daily hour of movement.
These data now acquire a new relevance, if we take into account the obesity epidemic that has reached virtually every country in the world.
Four scientists from this organization have just published the largest study to date, both for the time cover physical activity in this age group.
The group of researchers headed by Regina Guthold analyzed the evolution of 1.6 million young people who go to school in almost 300 national surveys in 145 countries and territories.
The team published its findings last Friday in The Lancet, where they highlight three main conclusions: progress has been made between little and nothing in the last 15 years, girls exercise less and it is a common scourge to poor and rich countries.
The country with the best result is Bangladesh (66%) and the worst, South Korea (94.2%). In the case of Bangladesh and India (73%), researchers attribute the good results to the deep implementation of national sports such as cricket, which kids practice every day in the neighborhood since they are required to help in the housework when they return from school. Cleaning the home is a physical activity.
In South Korea, meanwhile, 97.2% of girls do not exercise enough.
Although there is a large gap between the first and the last, the rest of the countries are in a very similar range.
“These habits are going to make children have worse respiratory, cardiovascular health, worse bone quality and less likelihood to stay at a recommended weight,” Guthold says.
The gender gap is very striking in many countries, but in the United States and Ireland, it reaches its maximum level, 15%.
In the US, “physical education in schools is powerful, there is a huge sports coverage of the media and a very strong presence of clubs and sports teams in which they can enroll, especially those who have traditionally been dominated by men.”
In total, 78% of young men are sedentary, compared with 85% in the case of girls.
What fails when kids do not exercise?
“In the future, we have to think about campaigns aimed especially at girls practicing sports. We have to understand what motivates them. It is also necessary to create the conditions. We need to facilitate, for example, separate changing rooms. In addition to educating the community: in some societies, there is still a myth that it is not safe to exercise during menstruation”, reads the report.
The study points to successful interventions, such as the British campaign This Girl Can, aimed at promoting women’s sports.
Experts point to life in front of a screen as the main problem. “The digital revolution has transformed people’s movement patterns and the way they work, have fun, learn and travel,” says Mark S. Tremblay, an expert in healthy life and obesity of the Research Institute of the Otawa hospital in Canada.
“People sleep less, spend more time in a chair, drive more and exercise less,” he explains.
“It is a mixture of factors. The parents now have less time and there is no one to go out with the children to the park. There are fewer safe spaces in the cities so that the children can be on their own. And to this, we add that we eat worse.”
“If we want to change the trend we have to realize that the problem goes far beyond changing the snack,” says Nerea Martín-Calvo, a pediatrician and professor of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Navarra.
This is also the opinion of Guthol, the lead author of the study: “We cannot blame the adolescent or approach him only from a health point of view, but look at the system, education and urban planning.”
“The effects of these figures are already here. We are seeing an obesity epidemic that has never been seen. It is the whiting that bites its tail, if the child eats badly and gains weight, he will not want to go out to play sports, he becomes more clumsy and gain even more weight, but we are teaching all this since childhood,” says Guthol.